Are We Making Progress? New Evidence on Aboriginal Education Outcomes in Provincial and Reserve Schools
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Institut C.D. HOWE I n sti tute commentary NO. 408 Are We Making Progress? New Evidence on Aboriginal Education Outcomes in Provincial and Reserve Schools Federal action is required to address the persistently low high-school completion rates of Canada’s First Nation children living on-reserve. Key steps include providing stable and transparent funding for reserve schools, and professionalizing reserve school organization. John Richards
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The Study In Brief This Commentary summarizes new evidence on Aboriginal education from the National Household Survey (NHS) that accompanied the 2011 census. There is some good news: young adults aged 20-24 at the time of the census who identified as North American Indian/First Nation and were living off-reserve, and those who identified as Métis, had considerably lower rates of incomplete secondary studies in 2011 than at the time of the previous census in 2006. The good news needs to be qualified. First, the incomplete secondary studies statistic for the off-reserve Indian/FN population is still three times the rate for young non-Aboriginals (30 percent relative to 10 percent) and the Métis rate is twice as high (20 percent relative to 10 percent). The report card for the provincial school systems might be “making progress, need to do better.” The second and more serious qualification is that the rate of incomplete secondary studies remains extremely high (58 percent) for young Indian/FN living on-reserve, and has declined little since 2006. While there is great variation in student performance among the 500 on-reserve schools across Canada, their overall report card is “inadequate, need to make major improvements.” National averages hide provincial variations. The six provinces from Quebec to British Columbia are home to almost 90 percent of Canada’s Aboriginal population. In Manitoba, the incomplete rate among young Indian/FN adults living on-reserve is 12.3 points above the national average (which is 58.0 percent); the BC rate is 17.3 points below the national average – a 30 point range. Outcomes in British Columbia and Ontario are uniformly better than the national average for all Aboriginal groups; in the Prairie provinces they are generally worse. Outcomes in Quebec are mixed: worse than average for Indian/FN on-reserve, better than average for Indian/FN off-reserve. In 2011, the federal government launched a major initiative intended to provide a legislative framework for organizing reserve schools and for enabling creation of reserve-based equivalents of provincial school districts. One motivation was the persistence of consistently low on-reserve high-school completion rates. BC’s policy innovations over the last two decades have not been a panacea, but the province’s above- average on-reserve education outcomes are another motivation. At time of writing (April 2014), Ottawa has tabled legislation, the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act (Bill C-33). The AFN has lent qualified support to the legislation; many chiefs have voiced opposition, and the bill’s fate is uncertain. In the author’s opinion, Bill C-33 is an important legislative advance and deserves broad Parliamentary support. C.D. Howe Institute Commentary© is a periodic analysis of, and commentary on, current public policy issues. Michael Benedict and James Fleming edited the manuscript; Yang Zhao prepared it for publication. As with all Institute publications, the views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Institute’s members or Board of Directors. Quotation with appropriate credit is permissible. To order this publication please contact: the C.D. Howe Institute, 67 Yonge St., Suite 300, Toronto, Ontario M5E 1J8. The full text of this publication is also available on the Institute’s website at www.cdhowe.org.
2 In an industrial society, a few individuals succeed and prosper as adults without ever completing high school. Others consciously choose a life with little formal education and, if lucky, nonetheless realize middle-class incomes. For example, a resource boom offering many well-paying, low-skill jobs may induce some to abandon high school. Still, members of any major community cannot The census does not provide the location of expect in general to escape poverty without schooling, but location at the time of the census is completing high school. To achieve what most a proxy – albeit far from perfect – for where young Canadians consider a middle-class income requires adults attended school. Young Aboriginals living some form of post-secondary education. At present, off-reserve (whether Indian/FN or Métis) probably a disturbingly large share of Canadians identifying received most of their primary and secondary as North American Indian or First Nation (FN) education in schools of the relevant province. The are neither completing high school nor achieving increase in graduation rates for these Aboriginals post-secondary certification in trades, colleges or indicates that provincial education ministries are universities. Outcomes among Métis are less dire, taking more seriously than in past decades their but they should not inspire complacency. obligation toward Aboriginal students. This Commentary provides an initial look at As I discuss in more detail later, there is new evidence on Aboriginal education from considerable variation in Aboriginal education the National Household Survey (NHS), which outcomes among the provinces. In general, accompanied the 2011 census. The youngest cohort British Columbia outcomes are superior to those for which it is reasonable to expect completion of elsewhere – albeit Ontario results are also well high school was that aged 20-24 at the time of above average. Other provinces should look closely the census. There is some good news: young adults at the initiatives pursued in BC over the last two in this cohort who identified as North American decades. In far more detail than elsewhere, BC Indian or First Nation and were living off-reserve, monitors Aboriginal student performance in and those who identified as Métis, had considerably provincial school, and annually publishes measures lower rates of incomplete secondary studies in 2011 of Aboriginal student performance at the school than in 2006. level. BC provides school districts with additional I acknowledge the enthusiastic support of Colin Busby for my writing this Commentary on Aboriginal education. Several internal C.D. Howe Institute analysts and anonymous external reviewers contributed valuable comments on earlier drafts. James Fleming and Michael Benedict undertook copy editing and preparation for publication. In the past, the author has provided advice to the federal government regarding Aboriginal education.
3 Commentary 408 funds, based on the number of Aboriginal students, as do provincial school districts. Here is an idea and requires school districts to consult with local that should be replicated in other provinces. Aboriginal leaders on appropriate education Furthermore, the regional office of Aboriginal projects. The districts are expected to prepare Affairs and Northern Development Canada has agreements specifying short-terms targets for played a productive role in encouraging these quasi- improvements (in areas such as attendance, average school districts. scores in mathematics and writing). But the good news needs to be qualified. First, School Performance Matters, But Does Not the incomplete secondary studies statistic for the Tell Entire Story off-reserve Indian/FN population is still three times the comparable rate for young non-Aboriginals It is, of course, unfair to place the entire burden (30 percent relative to 10 percent) and the Métis of low education outcomes on schools. The rate is twice as high (20 percent relative to 10 percent). socioeconomic conditions of children’s families The report card for the provincial school systems matter; the resources available to schools matter. might be summarized as “making progress, need But nor is it fair to exempt school systems from to do better.” scrutiny. One goal of this Commentary is to analyze The second and more serious qualification is that the extent to which NHS data confirm evidence the rate of incomplete secondary studies remains from the 2006 census that some provincial school extremely high (58 percent) for young Indian/ systems and some reserve schools are performing FN living on-reserve and has declined little since substantially better than others. 2006. As mentioned above, area of residence is The nationwide statistics underlying Figure 1 an imperfect proxy for location of schooling but refer to all who identified in the census as North probably those living on-reserve at the time of the American Indian or First Nation, whether or not 2011 census received much of their education in a they were also registered pursuant to the federal reserve school. Indian Act. Only “registered Indians” have the right While there is great variation in student to live on-reserve. Hence, the on-reserve high- performance among the 500 on-reserve schools school completion statistics refer to those registered, across Canada, their overall report card is whereas the off-reserve statistics refer to all “inadequate, need to make major improvements.” identifying as Indian/FN, whether registered or not. As with provincial schools, Aboriginal (See Appendix 1 for details concerning the census performance in BC’s reserve schools is in general definitions of the Aboriginal population.) better than in reserve schools elsewhere in Canada. Provincial and reserve schools do not exist in Uniquely, BC reserve schools have organized watertight compartments. Aboriginal families, themselves into province-wide organizations to both Indian/FN and Métis, are more mobile on provide secondary services and assess performance, average than non-Aboriginal.1 And, typically, about 40 percent of registered Indian children living on- 1 Based on the 2006 census (Canada 2008d), 13.9 percent of non-Aboriginals lived at a different address 12 months prior to the census date. Among Aboriginals, the equivalent statistic was 19.4 percent. The mobility statistics for Indian/FN and Métis are similar. Any change of family address probably implies a change of school for the children involved. These statistics do not capture interruptions in school attendance arising from family mobility within a school year.
4 Figure 1: Share without High-School Certificate, Selected Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal Identity Groups, Ages 20-24, 2006 and 2011 65 61.1 58.0 60 55 48.1 50 45 40.7 40 37.8 35 percent 30.2 30 25.4 25 20.4 20 15 12.5 10.1 10 5 0 North American North American North American Métis Non-Aboriginal Indian-First Indian-First Indian-First Nation, Nation, Nation, all on-reserve off-reserve 2006 2011 Source: Canada (2008b, 2013b). reserve are attending a provincial off-reserve school Cohort Profiles of (Rajekar and Mathilakath 2009). Educ ationa l At ta inment A final introductory observation. The incomplete high-school rate for all young Indian/FN adults There is a strong link between highest education (regardless of area of residence and whether and employment levels on the one hand, and registered) declined by over 7 percentage points education and employment earnings on the between 2006 and 2011. Three-quarters of this other. Using NHS results, Figure 2 illustrates the decline can be attributed to changes in incomplete relationship between highest education level and rates for two groups, on- and off-reserve, weighted employment rates among Indian/FN, Métis and by their share of the 2006 Indian/FN total. One- non-Aboriginals. The rate within each identity quarter of the improvement can be attributed to group is below 40 percent for those lacking high- a decline in the share of young Indian/FN adults school certification. Within each of the three living on-reserve.2 identity groups, completing high school (while 2 The share of young adults aged 20-24 who identified as Indian/FN (whether or not they were also registered) and were living on-reserve declined from 44.2 percent in 2006 to 37.9 percent in 2011 (Canada 2008b, 2013b).
5 Commentary 408 Figure 2: Employment Rates, Selected Identity Groups, by Highest Education Level, 2011 90 80 70 60 50 percent 40 30 20 10 0 No high-school With high-school With high-school With high-school With high-school diploma, no diploma, no diploma, with diploma, with college, diploma, with post-secondary post-secondary apprenticeship or CEGEP or other Bachelor’s degree certificate certificate trades certificate non-university certificate North American Indian/First Nation Métis Non-Aboriginal Note: Employment rates in Figure 2 and median earnings in Figure 3 refer to all individuals within an identity group ages 15 and over. Source: Canada (2013b). pursuing no further formal education) increases the is roughly 80 percent of the corresponding non- group employment rate by more than 25 percentage Aboriginal median; the Métis median is roughly points. At higher education levels, employment 90 percent (Figure 3).3 The gaps may reflect, in part, rates for all identity groups continue to rise. Worth discrimination in wages paid.4 noting is that, at each education level, the Métis NHS results from four age cohorts – ranging employment rate is the highest. from ages 20-24 to 45 and over – profile by age 2010 median employment income among those without high school or other post-secondary identity groups show that, at each of the three certification (Figure 4a). Those in the oldest cohort highest education levels, the Indian/FN median illustrated were born prior to 1965, and all but a few 3 The statistics are calculated for all who reported at least some employment earnings. 4 However, the gaps may also reflect factors other than discrimination: for example, average weekly Aboriginal hours worked were lower than for non-Aboriginals.
6 Figure 3: Median Annual Employment Income, Selected Identity Groups, by Highest Education Level, 2010 40,000 35,000 30,000 25,000 dollars 20,000 15,000 10,000 5,000 0 No high-school diploma, With high-school diploma, With high-school diploma, no post-secondary certificate no post-secondary certificate with post-secondary trades certificate, diploma or degree North American Indian/First Nation Métis Non-Aboriginal Source: Canada (2013c). in this cohort can be expected to have completed in high-school completion among younger high school (if they did complete) before 1980. Canadians overall. Even within the non-Aboriginal population, more As with Métis and non-Aboriginals, the rates for than one in five (21.6 percent) of those in the oldest Indian/FN who do not complete high school are cohort did not graduate. Among the three younger about 10 percentage points lower for those aged 35- non-Aboriginal cohorts, the did-not-complete 44 than for those aged 45 and older. The on-reserve statistic is under 10 percent, demonstrating that, for Indian/FN is the only group for which the high- working-age Canadian adults, near-universal high- school incomplete rate among young adults aged school completion has become the norm. 20-24 exceeds that for the 45-and-older cohort. The Among Métis, a similar inter-cohort profile older cohort encompasses no doubt a majority of exists, albeit it lies above that for non-Aboriginals. the parents of the younger cohort. The gap between the two profiles is roughly Meanwhile, some convergence in outcomes 10 percentage points for all age cohorts (Figure between the three Indian/FN cohorts and non- 4b). As measured by this gap, Métis high-school Aboriginals is taking place between ages 25 and 44. completion, while not converging on that for Based on the profile for all Indian/FN, about non-Aboriginals, has kept pace with the rise 60 percent in the 20-24 cohort have completed
7 Commentary 408 Figure 4A: Share without High-School Certificate, Selected Aboriginal Identity Groups and Non- Aboriginals, by Selected Age Cohorts, 2011 60 58.0 52.3 49.4 50 43.6 40.7 39.9 40 33.7 33.2 30.2 29.7 percent 30 24.8 29.8 22.0 20 20.4 21.6 16.3 17.4 10 10.1 9.1 8.4 0 ages 20-24 ages 25-34 ages 35-44 ages 45 and over North American Indian - First Nation, on-reserve North American Indian - First Nation, all North American Indian - First Nation, off-reserve Métis Non-Aboriginal Source: Canada (2013b). high school; among the 35-44 cohort, some 70 True, high school is a low rung on the education have done so.5 ladder. For the majority in a community to The implications of all this is clear: to reduce achieve what most Canadians consider middle- Aboriginal poverty, a higher employment rate is class incomes requires that the majority achieve crucial. And to realize a higher employment rate some form of post-secondary education – a trades requires, at a minimum, near-universal high-school certification, college diploma or university degree. completion. 5 The incomplete high-school rate for all Indian/FN in the age 20-24 cohort is 40.7 percent. This statistic declines to 29.7 percent for the age 35-44 cohort.
8 Figure 4B: Share without High-School Certificate, Aboriginal Gaps Relative to Non-Aboriginals, by Selected Age Cohorts, 2011 50 45 47.8 40 41.0 35 30.6 34.5 percentage points 30 30.7 25.3 25 20.0 20.6 20 18.3 16.4 15 12.9 11.5 10 10.3 7.9 8.3 8.1 5 0 ages 20-24 ages 25-34 ages 35-44 ages 45 and over North American Indian - First Nation, on-reserve North American Indian - First Nation, all North American Indian - First Nation, off-reserve Métis Source: Author’s calculations from Canada (2013b). The non-Aboriginal profile in Figure 5 illustrates identical for the 25-35 and 35-44 cohorts. On the two features of post-secondary education among assumption that education progression for non- non-Aboriginal Canadians. First is the much higher Aboriginal cohorts has become relatively stable, post-secondary education rate among the age 25-44 the census implies that those who do realize post- cohorts relative to those aged 45 and older. Second, secondary certification are doing so by age 35.6 post-secondary educational attainment is nearly 6 Those aged 35-44 in the 2011 census were 25-34 at the time of the 2001 census. On the assumption this cohort’s post- secondary education (PSE) between ages 25-34 was similar to that of the younger cohort aged 25-34 in 2011, then significant PSE training after age 35 should be reflected in a higher aged 35-44 profile than the census revealed.
9 Commentary 408 Figure 5: Share with Trades Certificate, College Diploma or University Degree, Selected Aboriginal Identity Groups and Non-Aboriginals, by Selected Age Cohorts, 2011 70 68.6 68.3 60 54.5 51.8 50.0 50 48.6 46.4 42.6 41.4 40 41.6 percent 39.1 31.1 30 34.4 34.5 23.3 28.8 25.8 20 20.1 17.9 10 9.0 0 ages 20-24 ages 25-34 ages 35-44 ages 45 and over Non-Aboriginal Métis North American Indian - First Nation, off-reserve North American Indian - First Nation, all North American Indian - First Nation, on-reserve Source: Canada (2013b). The Métis and off-reserve Indian/FN education on-reserve, is delayed relative to those in the other profiles in Figure 5 are obviously below that for identity groups. non-Aboriginals. Unlike the non-Aboriginal profile, there is also some incremental acquisition of post- Inter prov inci a l Va r i ation secondary training by those in the age 35-44 cohort in High-School Completion relative to those aged 25-34. R ates a nd Distr ibution of The differences between the non-Aboriginal A bor igina l Popul ation and on-reserve Indian/FN profiles are more pronounced. Post-secondary certification in the age Figure 1 illustrates, at the national level, rates 20-24 on-reserve cohort (9 percent) is very low, for young adults who have not completed high and is less than one-third of the maximum, realized school, by five identity groups. National averages among mature adults, those aged 35-44 hide some large provincial differences. For the six (28.8 percent). Acquisition of post-secondary provinces from Quebec to British Columbia – training, to the extent it occurs among those living home to almost 90 percent of Canada’s Aboriginal
10 Figure 6: Provincial Deviations from Respective Canadian Average Identity Group Share with Neither High-School nor Post-Secondary Certificate, Ages 20-24, by Selected Provinces, 2011 20 16.7 15 12.3 8.4 10.0 10 8.2 8.4 7.6 8.5 8.5 8.0 5 3.4 3.8 percentage points 1.9 2.4 0.0 1.0 0.1 0 -1.9 -1.9 -2.9 -2.2 -2.8 -5 -3.1 -4.2 -4.8 -6.9 -8.0 -8.3 -10 -10.7 -15 -17.3 -20 British Columbia Alberta Saskatchewan Manitoba Ontario Quebec North American Indian - First Nation, all North American Indian - First Nation, on-reserve North American Indian - First Nation, off-reserve Métis Non-Aboriginal Source: Author’s calculations from Canada (2013b). population – provincial deviations from the relevant The Métis interprovincial range is much smaller, national averages, at ages 20-24 highlight important slightly less than 12 points. The Alberta rate for information (Figure 6). (Negative deviations imply Métis who lack a high-school graduation certificate superior performance relative to the national is 7.6 points above the national average; the Ontario average, while positive deviations suggest inferior average is 4.2 points below it. outcomes.) Outcomes in British Columbia and Ontario are The largest interprovincial range is within the uniformly better than the national average for all on-reserve Indian/FN population, at nearly five identity groups; in the Prairie provinces they are 30 percentage points. In Manitoba, the incomplete generally worse. Outcomes in Quebec are mixed: rate is 12.3 points above the national average worse than average for Indian/FN on-reserve, better (58.0 percent); the BC rate is 17.3 points below the than average for Indian/FN off-reserve. national average.
11 Commentary 408 Figure 7: Aboriginal Share of Population by Selected Age Cohorts, Canada, Selected Provinces and Regions, 2011 30 29.4 29.5 26.3 26.6 25 20 16.7 15.6 percent 15 14.1 14.1 12.8 13.5 9.7 9.9 10 9.0 8.9 8.0 7.3 6.8 6.9 6.2 5.4 5.3 4.7 5 4.0 3.9 4.3 3.7 2.4 2.6 0 British Alberta Saskatchewan Manitoba Western Rest of Canada Columbia Canada Canada ages 0 - 4 ages 5 - 14 ages 15 and over total, all ages Source: Canada (2013a). Aboriginal Population Highly Concentrated in cohorts (ages 5-14 in 2011). The Aboriginal Prairie Provinces share for this cohort east of Manitoba was only 4 percent in 2011. It was 14 percent in the four Canadians living east of Manitoba might be western provinces combined; in Manitoba and excused for thinking poor Aboriginal education Saskatchewan, it was 26 percent. . outcomes is a social problem that affects only a As post-Second World War babyboomers reach small minority. Aboriginals constituted less than age 65 over the next two decades, the population 3 percent of the east-of-Manitoba population at share in the active labour market age cohort the time of the 2011 census (see Figure 7). But in (ages 18-64) will inevitably decline. This trend the four western provinces, home to 58 percent of accentuates the importance of Aboriginal youth, the Aboriginal population, there are compelling especially Indian/FN youth, achieving higher arguments that continuation for another generation education levels and employment rates than with weak Aboriginal education outcomes will their parents. adversely affect everyone in the region. The pursuit of better Aboriginal education In projecting future regional prospects, what outcomes is more than a matter of economic is relevant is the Aboriginal share of school age
12 productivity; it should also be seen as an appropriate employment rates (see Appendix 2). Analysis of societal response to the aspirations of many the data shows that a 10 percentage-point increase Aboriginal families. Young Aboriginals are “going in a regional Aboriginal employment rate boosts to town” in search of better education opportunities projected regional high-school completion among for themselves and their families. This is the case those ages 20-24 by 5 percentage points. The even among “registered Indians” who have the right gap between actual and projected high-school to live on-reserve.7 An ambitious survey of 2,500 incomplete rates for an individual province is urban Aboriginals, conducted by The Environics indirect evidence of superior and inferior school Institute in 11 Canadian cities in 2009, provides performance. evidence that the weak performance of on-reserve The simple analysis discussed in Appendix 2 schools is an important reason for the increase and the deviations discussion above are broadly in the off-reserve population (Environics 2010). consistent: BC on-reserve high-school incomplete Among participants in the survey who were first- rates are dramatically lower than in the five other generation urban Aboriginals and who identified as provinces under review and BC Aboriginal results Indian/FN (as opposed to Métis or Inuit), the most off-reserve are in general also better than elsewhere. important reason given for migrating to their city Precisely why British Columbia is doing better was access to education, followed closely by a desire than other provinces is not clear, but there are four to be closer to family members in the city and differences – in degree, if not in kind – between it employment opportunities.8 and the five other provinces. For Aboriginals attending provincial schools, the Wh y is Br itish Columbi a Best? BC education ministry has for over two decades provided school districts additional funds based on This Commentary has used recently released their numbers of Aboriginal students. In return, NHS results to emphasize the links, first between the districts are to prepare Aboriginal education education and employment, and second between enhancement agreements in consultation with local education and expected earnings. It has not Aboriginal education leaders. The intent is that attempted to explain why Aboriginal education districts use their incremental funds for Aboriginal levels are disturbingly low in many provinces and education projects, and that the agreements define are (somewhat) better in British Columbia. proximate goals such as targets in future provincial A simple statistical exercise, undertaken in a Aboriginal test scores or attendance rates. previous Commentary (Richards 2013), assesses Furthermore, relative to other provinces, the BC the incremental impact of better socioeconomic education ministry has a much stronger tradition of conditions, proxied by regional Aboriginal publishing detailed Aboriginal student performance 7 The proportion of young adult registered Indians living on-reserve declined between the last two censuses. In 2006, 48.2 percent of those aged 20-24 lived on-reserve; in 2011, the share was 45.2 percent (Canada 2008a, 2013a). The trend in on-reserve statistics is probably accurate, but the on-reserve share may be underestimated in both censuses due to incompletely enumerated reserve populations. Based on previous Statistics Canada adjustments for incomplete enumeration, the on-reserve share of the 2011 “registered Indian” population was probably close to 50 percent. 8 The survey asked, “What is the most important reason why you first moved to your city?” Pursuit of education for themselves or family members was cited by 43 percent, followed closely by a desire to be closer to family members in the city and employment opportunities (Environics 2010, 32).
13 Commentary 408 statistics, disaggregated to the school level. What is At time of writing (April 2014), the federal measured is more likely to improve than what is not. government has tabled legislation, the First Nations As well, BC reserve schools have organized Control of First Nations Education Act (Bill C-33). themselves into province-wide agencies to provide The AFN has lent qualified support to the legislation; secondary services and assess reserve school many chiefs have voiced opposition, and the fate of performance in reading, arithmetic and other Bill C-33 is uncertain (Mas 2014). In my opinion, basic metrics. These agencies help set goals in core Bill C-33 deserves broad Parliamentary support. academic subjects (reading, science, mathematics) One purpose of Bill C-33 is to assure a more as well as objectives for cultural education stable and transparent basis for funding reserve (Richards 2013). Arguably, the regional office of schools, by legislating the principle that per student the federal Aboriginal Affairs department has funding be at a level comparable to similarly played a productive role in encouraging formation situated provincial schools. But money alone will of province-wide organizations, such as the First not bring improvements. Legitimately, a second Nations Schools Association and the First Nations purpose of Bill C-33 is to professionalize reserve Education Steering Committee. school organization and to enable creation of reserve equivalents of provincial school districts. Conclusion Finally, Bill C-33 has a symbolic importance. While it affirms First Nation control of primary In 2011, the federal government launched a and secondary education, it implicitly acknowledges major initiative intended to provide a legislative that Parliament cannot abandon its responsibility framework for organizing reserve schools and for to legislate so that Indian/FN children enjoy better enabling creation of reserve-based equivalents options for a decent education. of school districts in provincial systems. One motivation was the persistence over many censuses of consistently low high-school completion rates on-reserve. While BC’s policy innovations over the last two decades have not been a panacea, the province’s above-average on-reserve education outcomes were another motivation. Initially, the initiative enjoyed support from the Assembly of First Nations (AFN). However, many of the chiefs have been sceptical of the government’s intention. They have emphasized the case for additional funding and minimized the case for professional school organization.
14 A ppendi x 1: Defining the A bor igina l Popul ation As with all identity issues, choice of defining criteria is debatable. The Canadian census defines the Aboriginal population in several ways. One is Aboriginal ancestry. The most widely used is based on self-identification. Individuals can self-identify as belonging to one of three Aboriginal groups: (i) North American Indian/First Nation (Mohawk, Ojibwa, Cree and so on); (ii) Métis (descendants of communities formed from the intermarriage of Indians and coureurs de bois engaged in the fur trade); or (iii) Arctic Inuit. Self-identification as an Aboriginal does not necessarily mean an individual has Aboriginal ancestry. Another census definition is based on an individual indicating that he or she is a “registered Indian” under provisions of the Indian Act, a Canadian statute dating from the late 19th century. The great majority of those who self-identify as Indian/First Nation are also registered Indians. Only registered Indians have the right to live on designated reserve lands and receive the associated benefits. The census defines the Aboriginal population as those who self-identify as Aboriginal or indicate that they are “registered Indians.” Most of the statistics discussed in this Commentary are from the National Household Survey (NHS) that accompanied the 2011 census. The census is by far the most important source of consistent information about Aboriginal social conditions across Canada. For many decades up to and including 2006, the census included a 20 percent random sample required to complete the “long-form” questionnaire. Since participation was mandatory among those selected, the reported results on many social conditions among Canadians were as accurate as a census could provide. For the 2011 census, the government made the controversial decision to abolish mandatory participation in a long-form and substituted voluntary participation in a larger 35-percent sample, the source for that year’s NHS data. While the sample was larger, those who rely on census Aboriginal data have expressed serious concerns about bias. Those Aboriginals who chose not to respond may well have been poorer, less educated and more alienated from mainstream Canada than one would conclude from a representative sample. A final caveat on the census is that the data are self-reported. This results in somewhat higher estimates of education levels than one would conclude from administrative data. Based on the NHS, the Canadian Aboriginal identity population in 2011 was 1,401,000. Of the total, 852,000 (61 percent) identified as North American Indian/First Nation, 452,000 (32 percent) as Métis and 59,000 (4 percent) as Inuit. The remainder designated multiple identities. The registered Indian population comprised 697,510 (82 percent of the Indian/FN identity population).
15 Commentary 408 A ppendix 2: Expl aining Inter provinci al Var i ation in High-School Incomplete R ates Throughout, this Commentary attributes education outcomes to two factors. The first is cultural differences – including the potential for discrimination – between non-Aboriginals on the one hand and the two Aboriginal groups, Métis and Indian/FN. The second factor is the quality of six provincial school systems, Quebec to British Columbia, and the average quality, within each of these six provinces, of on-reserve schools. While these two sets of variables are relevant, it is important to introduce a third set, socioeconomic characteristics (such as parental education and income) that bear on children’s academic performance. How important is each of the three sets of factors? The ideal answer requires a sophisticated regression analysis on a large national sample of young adults, identifying all relevant factors for each individual. This Appendix does not attempt such an exercise. Instead, it presents a simple analysis based on 18 Indian/FN subgroups defined from tabulated 2006 census data, three for each of the six provinces from Quebec to British Columbia: • an on-reserve subgroup, one for each province; • an off-reserve subgroup living in a census metropolitan area (CMA) within a province; and • an off-reserve subgroup living in a rural or urban non-CMA community within a province. In the discussion here, the average employment rate for all subgroup members (ages 15 and over) serves as a proxy for the socioeconomic family variables likely to bear on children’s education outcomes.9 The scatterplot in Figure A2.1 illustrates the 18 Indian/FN education outcomes and associated average employment rates. Incidentally, the range of variation in employment and high-school completion rates among analogously defined subgroups for Métis (not shown) is much smaller than for Indian/FN subgroups. The relatively small variation in Métis employment rates has no statistical significance in explaining variation in Métis high-school completion rates. The Figure A2.1 trendlines illustrate the result arising from a regression of incomplete high-school rates for the 18 subgroups on the relevant average employment rate for each subgroup, along with an index variable to identify on-reserve observations.10 The rationale for including the index is to accommodate the difficulties of on-reserve schools graduating their students in the context of their isolation and small size. We would expect a statistically significant negative relationship between a subgroup’s overall employment rate and its incomplete high-school rate among young adults. We would also expect that, for a given 9 The employment rate is a reasonable proxy for income and education. It is highly dependent on completion of K-12, and average incomes are in turn highly dependent on presence of employment earnings. See Sharpe et al. (2009) for a decomposition of the relative importance of socioeconomic and family characteristics in determining Aboriginal incomes. 10 For the 18 Indian/FN subgroups, the regression result is y = 66.9 – 0.51x1 + 14.7x2 where y is the projected incomplete high-school rate, x1 is the employment rate and x2 is the index designating a reserve location. The adjusted R2 is 0.67. The employment rate is significant at 5 percent one-tail, the on-reserve index at 1 percent one-tail. The regression could be re- specified to add an index distinguishing CMA from rural/urban, non-CMA Indian/FN subgroups. Such an index has the appropriate sign (implying higher rural than CMA incomplete rates) but is insignificant. The small number of observations means the trend lines are indicative only.
16 Figure A2.1: High-School Incomplete Rates of Young Indian/First Nation Adults, Selected Subgroups, Ages 20-24, by Employment Rate of All Members of Identity Subgroup, 2006 75 70 High-school incomplete rate (percent) 65 60 55 50 45 40 35 30 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60 65 Employment rate (percent) BC AB SA MB ON QC Trendline: Indian/FN on-reserve Trendline: Indian/FN off-reserve Source: Canada (2008b, 2008c). employment rate, the incomplete rate would be higher for on-reserve subgroups. Such are, indeed, the results of the regression. Several observations are worth noting. The employment rate range is large, indicating considerable interprovincial variation in average prosperity and projected education levels of the subgroups. For the Manitoba and Saskatchewan on-reserve subgroups, the employment rate is close to 30 percent. For three off-reserve subgroups, one in Ontario and two in Alberta, the employment rate exceeds 60 percent. If we project expected high-school incomplete rates in terms of this simple regression, we can interpret deviations from projected outcomes as a measure of the performance of provincial school systems and of average quality of reserve schools in the relevant province. A positive deviation implies the actual high- school incomplete rate is higher than projected and the relevant school system is underperforming relative to expectation; a negative deviation implies superior performance. Adjusting for socioeconomic conditions using 2006 data does not alter the basic ranking of provincial school systems reported in this Commentary, based on 2011 data. The incomplete rates are lowest in British Columbia, highest in the Prairie provinces. The on-reserve subgroup observations fit the trend line reasonably well – except for British Columbia, where the on-reserve high-school incomplete rate (46.9 percent) is 13 points below the trend line projection. While the deviations from trend for the two BC off-reserve subgroups are smaller, both also lie below the trend line.
By contrast, the on-reserve Manitoba high-school incomplete rate (72 percent) lies 6.4 points above the trend line. The incomplete rates for the two Manitoba off-reserve subgroups also lie well above trend and are higher than the BC on-reserve incomplete high-school rate. The employment rate may well incorporate factors beyond parental socioeconomic status. The large positive deviations of Alberta off-reserve incomplete rates may reflect the relative quality of Aboriginal education in the province; they may also reflect a below-average demand for high-school certification due to a provincial resource boom and a correspondingly high market demand for workers, including those with low education levels. Aggregating data into the 18 subgroups and assessing family socioeconomic characteristics in terms of employment rates is admittedly a “back-of-the-envelope” exercise. But if we accept the employment rate as a proxy for socioeconomic characteristics among Indian/FN subgroups, the characteristics explain a good deal of the interprovincial variation in incomplete high-school rates – but certainly do not negate the conclusion that the quality of provincial school systems also matters.
18 R efer ences Assembly of First Nations and Aboriginal Affairs and ––––––. 2013b. “Secondary (High) School Diploma or Northern Development Canada. 2012. Nurturing Equivalent (14), Labour Force Status (8), Aboriginal the Learning Spirit of First Nation Students. Report Identity (8), Area of Residence: On Reserve (3), of the National Panel on First Nation Elementary Registered or Treaty Indian Status (3), Age Groups and Secondary Education for Students on Reserve. (13B) and Sex (3) for the Population Aged 15 Ottawa. Years and Over, in Private Households of Canada, Canada. 2008a. “Aboriginal Identity (3), Registered Provinces and Territories. 2011 National Household Indian Status (3), Age Groups (12), Sex (3) and Survey.” 99-012-X2011044. Ottawa: Statistics Area of Residence (6) for the Population of Canada, Canada. Provinces and Territories, 2006 Census – 20% ––––––. 2013c. “Income and Earnings Statistics in 2010 Sample Data.” 97-558-XCB2006010. Ottawa: (16), Age Groups (8C), Sex (3), Work activity in Statistics Canada. 2010 (3), Highest Certificate, Diploma or Degree ––––––. 2008b. “Aboriginal Identity (8), Highest (6) and Selected Sociocultural Characteristics (60) Certificate, Diploma or Degree (14), Major Field for the Population Aged 15 Years and Over in of Study – Classification of Instructional Programs, Private Households of Canada, Provinces, Territories 2000 (14), Area of Residence (6), Age Groups (10A) and Census Metropolitan Areas, 2011 National and Sex (3) for the Population 15 Years and Over of Household Survey.” 99-014-X2011041. Ottawa: Canada, Provinces and Territories, 2006 Census - Statistics Canada. 20% Sample Data.” 97-560-XCB2006028. Ottawa: Environics Institute. 2010. Urban Aboriginal Peoples Statistics Canada. Study. Main Report. Toronto. April. ––––––. 2008c. “Labour Force Activity (8), Aboriginal Mas, Susana. 2014. “Aboriginal education bill meets Identity (8), Highest Certificate, Diploma or Degree First Nations conditions: Bernard Valcourt.” CBC (14), Area of Residence (6), Age Groups (12A) and online news. Accessed 16 April 2014 at www.cbc.ca/ Sex (3) for the Population 15 Years and Over of news/politics/aboriginal-education-bill-meets-first- Canada, Provinces and Territories, 2006 Census – nations-conditions-bernard-valcourt-1.2605507. 20% Sample Data.” 97-560-XWE2006031. Ottawa: Mendelson, Michael. 2009. “Why We Need a First Statistics Canada. Nations Education Authority Act.” Ottawa: ––––––. 2008d. “Aboriginal Identity (8), Age Groups Caledon Institute of Social Policy. October. (8), Area of Residence (6), Sex (3) and Selected Rajekar, Ashutosh, and Ramnarayanan Mathilakath. Demographic, Cultural, Labour Force, Educational 2009. “The Funding Requirement for First and Income Characteristics (233), for the Total Nations Schools in Canada.” Ottawa: Office of the Population of Canada, Provinces and Territories, Parliamentary Budget Officer. Available at: http:// 2006 Census – 20% Sample Data.” 97-564- www2.parl.gc.ca/sites/pbo-dpb/documents/INAC_ XCB2006002. Ottawa: Statistics Canada. Final_EN.pdf. ––––––. 2013a. “Aboriginal Identity (8), Age Groups Richards, John. 2013. Why is BC Best? The Role of (20), Registered or Treaty Indian Status (3), Area Reserve and Provincial School Systems in Explaining of Residence: On Reserve (3) and Sex (3) for the Aboriginal School Performance. Commentary 390. Population in Private Households of Canada, Toronto: C.D. Howe Institute. October. Provinces and Territories, 2011. 99-011-X2011026.” Ottawa: Statistics Canada. Sharpe, Andrew et al. 2009. The Effect of Increasing Aboriginal Educational Attainment on the Labour Force, Output and the Fiscal Balance. Ottawa: Centre for the Study of Living Standards. May.
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